Reporters Without Borders strongly criticised the Iranian authorities today for blocking access to three pro-reformist Internet websites and arresting some of their contributors. It also denounced continuing harassment by the judiciary of the staff of the website Naqshineh and the shutting down of three cybercafés in the southern city of Bushehr.
"This is a new step in the cowing of the Iranian media," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "After closing down many daily newspapers and filtering out blogs (websites where people comment on the news), they are now directly targeting website staff and contributors."
Three websites blocked Access to the news websites Baamdad (www.baamdad.com), Emrooz (www.emrooz.ws) and Rouydad (www.rouydad.info) has been blocked since 21 August.
The Teheran prosecutor's office has also summoned and arrested half a dozen people working for Internet service providers (ISPs) or as webmasters for the targeted sites.
The three websites are close to the country's main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, whose secretary-general, Mohammad Reza Khatami, has protested to the deputy head of the judicial affairs section of the prosecutor's office about pressure by morality police on ISPs to block websites deemed "undesirable."
Summoning of boss of Naqshineh website Hamid Motaghi, head of the news website in the southern city of Qom, Naqshineh (www.naqshineh.com), which has been blocked since March, was summoned to appear on 21 August before the 14th division of the city court. He was allowed to go free a few hours later after posting bail of 100 million rials (9,500 euros). He said he was being harassed and threatened by court officials, who he accused of being under the orders of the country's Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Naqshineh is being prosecuted for articles it carried about the parliamentary elections in February. A student at the Qom Koranic school, Mojtaba Lotfi, who has written articles for the site, was given a prison sentence of three years and 10 months on 14 August for posting "lies" on the Internet.
Three cybercafés shut down Three Internet cafés in the city of Bushehr were closed on 25 August by the morality police, who are close to the intelligence services. The manager of one of them, who tried to resist, was beaten up by police.
... Payvand News - 8/28/04 ... --